Tigers Preparing for Tech's Tough Schemes

CLEMSON – While most of the attention is focused on how Clemson is going to stop Georgia Tech's Reggie Ball and Calvin Johnson, an equally important component is just how successful the Tigers will be moving the ball against that stingy and tricky defense.

The Yellow Jackets rank seventh nationally in rushing defense, ninth in pass efficiency defense, 17th in total defense and 24th in scoring defense. And those numbers come after playing the likes of Notre Dame and Virginia Tech.

What makes Georgia Tech so difficult to move the ball against is the way defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta has devised the zone blitz, which is used on nearly every single play.

"The zone pressure is well designed against both run and pass," Tigers offensive coordinator Rob Spence said. "They come from a lot of different angles and different looks. They play basic coverages behind what they do (up front), but they do a terrific number of fronts and stunts. It's very well thought out and creative and very, very well organized."

The front seven of the Yellow Jackets is one of the best groups in the ACC. The front four aren't the biggest, but they're quick and powerful, which causes a lot of havoc in offensive backfields.

But just when teams think they have solved the problem in the trenches, Tenuta will drop the linemen into pass coverage and blitz linebackers.

"They bring five- or six-man pressure and then play zone behind it, whereas a lot of teams play more man behind it," Spence said. "You can be reckless with what you do up front with those pressures and still be really sound so you don't give up big plays."

In order to have a smidgen of success, Clemson's running backs are going to have to be able to pick up the blitzes and protect quarterback Will Proctor.

"They've got to do a good job," Spence said. "Those running backs are going to be called upon to protect and protect well in the scheme."

One distinct advantage for Spence and the rest of the Clemson offense is that it goes against a similar defense every day in practice.

"It not at all that much different," Spence said. "It's been en vogue for so many years."

What may hurt the Tigers' ability to attack the Georgia Tech defense successfully is them having to go about it without the services of starting receivers Rendrick Taylor and Chansi Stuckey.

While Stuckey is officially listed as doubtful, odds are he won't play.

"I don't look at the fact that we're missing two receivers as being significant," Spence said. "It really doesn't change anything because our backups are talented and they play well. They'll be competitive, so I'm not that concerned about that.

"If we're going to be a good team and have a quality offense, then we have to be able make plays without our playmakers out there. If we're going to get into a run at a championship, then we're going to have to get other people play to their top level. You have to have all of your receivers playing at their top game. That's part of playing at this level. It's not something where you think you're going to get through the season without any injuries."

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